Ghana to treat severely ill COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma

The National Blood Service (NBS) says Ghana is ready to prepare convalescent plasma (CP) from recovered COVID-19 patients for transfusion, as an empirical treatment, for persons in life-threatening conditions of the infection.

Dr Justina Ansah, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Blood Service, who disclosed this, said the intervention was based on a research that patients who had recovered from disease outbreaks such as COVID-19, had robust immune response to infections.

The antibodies in the plasma of recovered patients could, therefore, be transfused to other COVID-19 patients to aid their recovery from the infection.

The CEO, who announced these at an event, held virtually, to commemorate the 2020 World Blood Donor Day, in Accra, therefore, encouraged all recovered COVID-19 patients to step forward and donate their plasma to save the lives of other patients in critical condition.

The Day is observed annually on June 14 to express appreciation to voluntary unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gift of blood; and to raise awareness on the global need for safe blood and how everyone can contribute.

This year’s Day is on the theme; “Safe Blood Saves Lives” with the slogan “Give blood and make the world a healthier place”.

Dr Ansah said the NBS was working closely with the Ministry of Health, Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and the COVID-19 Treatment Team to fight against the pandemic.

She said: “All the needed machines to aid the collections and protocols are available, but we are waiting for the funds to acquire the consumables to start.”

“There is no vaccine yet so this is the only treatment and people are recovering worldwide through this medium”.

Dr Neema Rusibamayila Kimambo, the World Health Organization Country Representative, commended voluntary blood donors for their continuous support to save lives.

She, however, noted that the biggest challenge with the CP approach in many African countries was the insufficient resources of national blood services to safely collect, process and store this blood in a quality-assured manner.

“But, the current pandemic is also an opportunity to improve this situation. Kenya, for instance, has allocated a portion of funding from the World Bank specifically to improve blood services during the pandemic,” she stated.
Dr Kimambo said universal access to safe blood was a key component of a resilient health system and contributed to achieving universal health coverage.

“In the African Region, countries are making progress in improving access to quality-assured blood and blood products,” she said.

“At WHO, we are also exploring partnerships with Facebook to set-up a regional Blood Donations features, and 15 countries have expressed interest in piloting this tool.

“This feature connects blood donors with nearby opportunity to donate in collaboration with approved blood banks”.

Dr Kimambo urged the Government to collaborate with blood donor associations and nongovernmental organizations to increase investment in blood transfusion services in line with WHO guidelines.

The event witnessed the launch of a blood donation video, which would be showing on various channels to encourage more people to donate blood voluntarily.

Meanwhile, the National Blood Service says the total units of blood collection and supply in the first five-months of the year had declined by 21 per cent compared to last year’s record for the period.

Last year, the figure was 73,063 units but it declined to 57,268 for this year.